December 2019 CityMaker:

Patricia Starr

By Jonathan Camargo

It seems that the holiday season never fails to bring out the best in our community. With colder weather comes warmer hearts, and although our snowmen are sparse and our sleds tucked away, our compassion is there, no matter the day.

Our December 2019 Lakeland CityMaker is an individual whose heart beats in tune with the unseen need of our community. From Easter to Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving to Christmas, she gives back to the less fortunate without asking for anything more than a smile in return.

For Something Better

Patricia Starr is both a mother and a humanitarian. She moved to Lakeland in 1980. Originally from West Virginia, it was a job opportunity for her late husband that brought them both to the Central Florida area.

In present day, Patricia is retired, but her involvement in our community has never been greater. She’s the founder of Project Care Outreach, a Lakeland-based nonprofit that’s faithfully served our community since 1995. To date, the organization has provided thousands of holiday dinners for local seniors and homeless individuals. Their service to our community, however, is far from one-dimensional. 

For the Community

It sometimes feels like there’s never enough time in a day. Those same 24 hours we had when we were younger felt infinitely longer then than they do today. It’s no different for Patricia. When she’s not watching her grandkids, she’s dedicating her time, effort, and energy toward the production of community events for anyone in need of a helping hand.

Project Care Outreach was born from a simple idea: to give back. According to a report published by the Homeless Coalition of Polk County earlier this year, there are approximately 415 homeless individuals in the Lakeland area, but it’s important to note that this number doesn’t account for homeless children, nor does it include the number of individuals sleeping in their cars or on a friend’s couch. 

No matter how you look at it, need surrounds us. Its presence is felt every day of the year, although it shines brightest around the holiday season. While many of us were fortunate enough to spend Thanksgiving in a warm home, surrounded by family, friends, and loved ones, there are those in our community that can only dream of such luxuries.

To give back and show they care, Patricia and a team of volunteers held their first Thanksgiving dinner for the community back in 1993. Although only 50 individuals showed up that inaugural year, it was easy to see how much this simple act of kindness truly meant. For some individuals, this wasn’t just a holiday dinner – it was the first real meal they’d had in years.

Deliveries from the Heart

In 2019, Project Care Outreach continued its Thanksgiving tradition for the 27th year in a row, delivering hundreds of meals to needy individuals across the Lakeland community. Ultimately, it’s the kind regards and the gentle thanks that makes it all worthwhile, even when the hours of cooking are long and the months of preparation stressful.

Though nothing they do is for the glitz, glamour, or spotlight, Patricia and her many volunteers have made such an impact that even our local government is taking notes.